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Australia says it was ‘upfront’ with France over submarine deal


Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks during a press conference in the Prime Ministers courtyard on December 11, 2020 in Canberra, Australia.

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Australia was “upfront, open and honest” with France about its concerns over a deal for French submarines, its defense minister said on Sunday, as a new deal with the United States and Britain continued to fuel a multinational diplomatic crisis.

Australia renounced its 2016 agreement with France’s Naval Group for the construction of a fleet conventional submarines. Instead, it announced on Thursday that it would build eight more nuclear-powered subs with U.S. technology as part of a trilateral security partnership.

The move infuriated France, a NATO ally of the United States and Britain, prompting it to recall its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra, and riled China, the major rising power in the Indo-Pacific region.

The deal has put Washington in an unprecedented diplomatic crisis with France that analysts say could do lasting damage to the U.S. alliance with France and Europe, throwing also throws into doubt the united front that the Biden administration has been seeking to forge against China’s growing power.

Paris has called the cancellation a stab in the back, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian saying relations with the United States and Australia were in a “crisis”.

Peter Dutton, the Defense Minister said that Australia raised concerns with France about the order. The order was valued at $40Billion in 2016, but is expected to be much higher today.

Dutton stated to Sky News that suggestions suggesting the Australian government hadn’t raised concerns were “defying, frankly,” Sky News said.

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia said Friday that he raised “very serious concerns” to French President Emmanuel Macron about the deal and stated that Australia must make a decision in Australia’s national interest.

Simon Birmingham, the Finance Minister said Australia had shared the agreement with France but admitted on Sunday that the negotiations were secret due to “enormous sensibilities”.

Dutton, Birmingham and others declined to share the cost of the new agreement. However Dutton indicated that “it is not going be an inexpensive project.”